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Creating Actionfunction Diagrams for User Centric Design

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Design Cognition II

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.355.1 - 25.355.15



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Paper Authors


Shraddha Sangelkar Texas A&M University, College Station

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Shraddha Sangelkar is a doctoral student in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Texas A&M University. Her research advisor is Dr. Daniel A. McAdams. Her research focuses on the universal design, data mining and application of association rule learning, and product platform design.

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Daniel A. McAdams Texas A&M University

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Daniel A. McAdams is an Associate Professor of mechanical engineering at Texas A&M University. His research and teaching interests are in engineering design with focus on concept generation, bioinspired design, and design methods for inclusive design product lines.

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Creating Actionfunction Diagrams for User Centric DesignUsers are perhaps the most important aspect of consumer product design. There is a significantbody of research about the ways to measure and achieve user-friendliness in a product. Acustomer-driven approach to product design aims to produce greater user comfort and betterproduct experience. Design tools that keep the user in mind during early stages of design cangreatly improve the usability of the end product.A systematic break down of a product into its constituent functions allows a product designer tofocus on one function of a product at a time. Functional modeling allows us to abstract thefunctionality of a product irrespective of its form or shape. Functional modeling is well receivedin the design research community as a product representation framework. This paper explains theconcept of an actionfunction diagram, which builds on the notion of functional modeling. Inaddition to the functions and flows in a functional model, the actionfunction diagramincorporates the associated user activities. Thus, the actionfunction diagram allows user-productinteraction modeling.In an actionfunction diagram, an activity diagram and a functional model are combined into asingle graphical representation. Product functions are modeled using the Functional Basis anduser activities are modeled using the International Classification of Functioning, Disability andHealth (ICF) lexicon. The ICF was established by the World Health Organization and provides astandardized lexicon and taxonomy for the description of health and health-related states. Thispaper explains the application of ICF lexicon for creating actionfunction diagrams.For the design of products, modeling the user interaction with respect to the product is crucial.Literature recognizes the activity diagram as a tool to model user activities in relation to theproduct. However, the activity diagram stands by itself and does not reflect on how a change inuser activity affects product function; the user activities in an activity diagram are independent ofthe product functions. A product representation framework like the actionfunction diagramovercomes the limitations of the activity diagram, enhances the effectiveness of functionalmodeling, and provides a means to incorporate user-product interactions in the early stages ofdesign.This paper details the procedure for creating actionfunction diagrams with a case study on a canopener. The details of the procedure are based on the authors’ experience in creating, applyingand teaching both actionfunction diagrams and functional models. A pilot study demonstrates theeffectiveness of actionfunction diagram at consistently modeling user-product interaction.The specific goal of this paper is to teach the modeling actionfunction diagrams to designstudents, product designers, and future researchers. The paper also provides a checklist forbuilding actionfunction diagrams and lists the caveats for creating consistent actionfunctiondiagrams. The results demonstrate the potential of the actionfunction diagram as an effectiveproduct representation framework that focuses on the user.

Sangelkar, S., & McAdams, D. A. (2012, June), Creating Actionfunction Diagrams for User Centric Design Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21113

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